Neil Cobbold, Chief Sales Officer at PayProp, comments: “Since March, increasing limitations on property possession claims through the courts have made 2020 a difficult year for landlords and letting agencies to deal effectively with serious issues such as rent arrears.
“The scant supply of repossession options will continue over the coming weeks due to an extended Christmas evictions truce between December 11th and January 11th 2021, with no enforcement action allowed in England until January 25th.
“Rent arrears tend to build up during the festive period, pushing many landlords to pursue eviction through the courts. However, with their options more limited than usual, alternatives to eviction should be investigated first, and the role of letting agents as mediators will be crucial.
“Letting agencies can help by effectively and proactively managing communication between landlords and tenants, either preventing or reducing arrears through effective reminders or organising affordable repayment plans. By digitally recording all payments and automating arrears chasing and employing the services of a dedicated eviction expert, agents can better navigate the changing rules during this trying period.
“Next year, the prospect of a successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout and the financial support provided by an extension to the furlough scheme could improve the situation and pave the way for more normal eviction avenues to resume.
“However, there will still be challenges ahead as the minimum notice period for evictions (except for the most serious cases) remains at six months until March at the earliest. Meanwhile, there will also be the renewed prospect of Section 21 being scrapped as part of the Renters’ Reform Bill, further curtailing options.
“Agencies would be well advised to sharpen up their arrears management processes and knowledge of this crucial area of agency work.”